I've been a fan of pork belly for a long time and so when in Kuala Lumpur recently I saw a recipe book dedicated to nothing but this cut I had to buy it. The cut is so versatile that a book on the cut shouldn't be short of material. It's happy being steamed, roasted, boiled, fried, grilled and any number of combinations of those methods - simmered then roasted belly is divine. Even as a seasoned veteran of the belly the book still amazed me with its variety of dishes, many of them using some pretty uncommon ingredients. One that caught my eye was the aforementioned pork belly with preserved beancurd and lotus root. It also gave me an excuse to try my hand at cooking the strange looking lotus root I'd seen in the local Chinese supermarket - Dalston's Yu Xiao. There was some Gloucester Old Spot belly slices in the freezer too that would be perfect.
If you've never had preserved beancurd before it is great for adding umami. Fairly powerful on its own but added to a dish you get a deeply savoury element and loads of mouth feel - much like an anchovy or two does to a tomato sauce. I've used the white stuff before - stir frying it with water spinach - but hadn't opened the can of red preserved beancurd I had in the fridge. I'd heard the red tends to be used for braised dishes and so out it came.
The dish worked really well, the hour of simmering with no prior browning gave the pork a wonderful melt in the mouth texture and beautiful gelatinous skin. The lotus root had an interesting texture, like a tender water chestnut almost, but the taste was quite bland, before cooking it had a slight perfume but this was lost in such a rich sauce. And what a sauce it was - the soy, oyster sauce and rice wine is a fairly common trinity but the preserved beancurd and pork juice transformed it into a rich, meaty delight. Mixed with boiled rice I could've cleared away the whole half kilo of belly myself. I resisted though so I get the pleasure of having it for lunch tomorrow.
Pork Belly with Preserved Beancurd and Lotus Root
500gr pork belly
400gr of lotus root, about half a root probably
5 dried shitake, soaked
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
2 star anise
40gr/4 cubes of red preserved beancurd
1 litre of water
1 TB light soy sauce
1 TB oyster sauce
1 ts rice wine
1/2 TB dark soy
1 ts sugar
Peel the lotus root and slice into 5mm slices, putting in a bowl of cold water to rinse.
Cut the belly into bite size pieces, 3cm wide bits probably.
Mix the seasoning ingredients.
Heat up some oil in a wok or big saucepan then add the garlic, stirring until the cloves start to turn golden.
Add the star anise and preserved beancurd, mashing the beancurd with the back of a spoon.
Add the pork, lotus root and mushrooms to the pan, stirring just till the pork changes colour then add the seasonings and the water.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour till the pork is tender and the sauce reduced. If you like you can add some cornflour (mixed with a little cold water) at the end to thicken the sauce slightly - I did.
Serve with boiled rice and steamed chinese greens.